afrol News, 5 February - Niger officials have confirmed that the presidential elections ended without a clear winner and a run-off will be held on 12 March between long-time opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou and ex-PM Seïni Oumarou.
This was announced by the Nigerien Independent national election commission (CENI), who also revealed that the historic opposition leader, Mr Issoufou, had a lead ahead of the run-off.
According to the official but preliminary results, Mr Issoufou led the first round with 36 percent of votes, followed by the former Prime Minister and candidate for the ousted ex-President's party MNSD, Mr Oumarou, who won 23 percent of votes.
While Mr Issoufou could seem to have a great lead in the poll, where ten candidates participated, the race is still very open before the 12 March run-off.
Ex-Prime Minister Oumarou is backed by several of the defeated candidates, who also were close to toppled President Mamadou Tandja. Hama Amadou, who polled third in the first round, also is a former Prime Minister under ex-President Tandja and belongs to the MNSD party, and has already pledged to throw in his support behind Mr Oumarou.
Mahamadou Issoufou since 1993 has stood candidate for the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) at several presidential elections. He came second to Mr Tandja in both the 1999 and 2004 elections.
As the opposition leader, Mr Issoufou was central in Niger's 2009 political crisis, as President Tandja unlawfully tried to change the constitution to secure a third term i
Mahamadou Issoufou led the first round with 36 percent of votes
n office. The crisis ended in a military coup in February 2010 and an exemplary democratic transition process since then. Mr Issoufou has been active in defining this transition process in cooperation with the ruling military junta and a broad spectre of civil society.
The run-off therefore again becomes a choice between the country's two dominant parties, the MNSD and the PNDS. Mr Issoufou is promoting himself as the candidate for change, away from the authoritarian tendencies of the Tandja regime, while Mr Oumarou is seen as the candidate for stability, focusing on the positive economic development during the Tandja regime.
In Niger, the ethnic vote is of importance, but not as much as in most African countries. Opposition leader Issoufou is an ethnic Hausa, such as around half of Niger's population, mostly living in a belt along the Nigerian border.
Mr Oumarou belongs to Niger's second largest ethnic group, the Zarma (also called Djerma), dominating the western-most part of the country, originally including the capital, Niamey.
But ethnic origin is normally not the decisive issue in elections in Niger, as witnessed by the two elections won by Mr Tandja over Mr Issoufou. Ex-President Tandja is of mixed Fulani and Kanuri ancestry, representing relatively small minorities in Niger.
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